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Friday, January 30, 2015

X-amining Wolverine #17

"Basics!"
Late November 1989

In a Nutshell 
Wolverine is forced to rescue Roughhouse from a cybernetic Nazi. 

Writer: Archie Goodwin
Breakdowns: John Byrne
Finishes: Klaus Janson
Letterer: Jim Novak
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In the past, Wolverine stalks and kills a wild boar, leading to a discussion of his animal urges with Storm. The next morning, he departs via Gateway for Madripoor. In the present, Wolverine defeats Roughhouse in a bar fight at the Princess Bar, then celebrates his victory with his friends. Outside, General Coy sells Roughhouse to a mysterious stranger. Later, at the Royal Palace, Chief Tai discusses with the Prince a shipment of cocaine Coy tried to smuggle into the country from Central America, discovered by Patch. Unwilling to unleash the plague of cocaine on Madripoor, the Prince suggests Tai not pay much attention should the shipment disappear. From out of the shadows the mysterious stranger emerges, apologizing for the shipment of cocaine, handing over a payment from his employer, and assuring the Prince that since he can now retrieve the shipment, it'll never happen again. He then leaves the Prince with a warning about Patch.


The next morning, Wolverine awakens and smells from his balcony the shipment of cocaine being moved. He follows the truck and spots the drugs, along with Roughhouse, being loaded onto a ship. Aboard the ship, the mysterious stranger tells Roughhouse about a special tainted cocaine, which granted one of its users enough superhuman abilities to take on Daredevil before it killed him. That cocaine fell into the hands of the stranger's employer and the stranger introduces himself as Geist, explaining he's been tasked with working out the bugs in the cocaine and that Roughhouse will be his next test subject. Outside, Wolverine boards the ship, recognizing it as a US Navy vessel, as Roughhouse starts to scream.

Firsts and Other Notables
Following Peter David's six part "The Gehenna Stone Affair" story, this issue marks the debut of the book's new creative team, Archie Goodwin and John Byrne, who previously worked together when Goodwin was the editor on X-Men. Their run on this title lasts only seven issues, contributing to the "revolving door" feel of creative teams early in its existence,. Byrne has said that he took the job to work with Goodwin, and when Goodwin left, he did (joking that had they known how good the royalties from the series would be, they would have stuck around longer).

Byrne is inked by Klaus Janson, known for his collaborations with Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. He gives Byrne's pencils a rougher edge that I don't love, but I also don't mind, and it certainly fits the tone of the series.

Geist, a World War II-era Nazi kept alive by a cybernetic exoskeleton, appears for the first time in this issue. He serves as the chief villain for the Goodwin/Byrne run, but aside from the X-Men: True Friends miniseries, this storyline encompasses all his appearances.


Daredevil sort of guest stars in this issue, as Geist recounts to Roughhouse Daredevil's encounter with someone high on Geist's tainted cocaine. I'm not entirely sure why Goodwin and Byrne decided to drop a random Daredevil appearance into the issue, unless one or the other just wanted to write/draw the character, however briefly.


Bloodsport is called Bloodscream without comment in this issue, and that is the name the character is known by moving forward.

The cover image from this issue's cover is mildly iconic, and pops up in a various places (ads, licensing material, etc.) in the future. It's the also the first for the series in an unfortunate trend of cover design that has, these days, completely overtaken the industry: the cover that is little more than a pinup image, which gives no indication (however misleading or inaccurate) of what the contents of the issue may be.

The Chronology Corner 
Storm appears briefly in this issue, before Wolverine leaves Australia for Madripoor, occurring before Uncanny X-Men #246.


A Work in Progress
Something which has been alluded to, in both this series and Uncanny X-Men, this issue actually shows us Wolverine leaving Australia for Madripoor, via Gateway, for the first time.


Wolverine considers Roughhouse one of his favorite sparring partners, for a variety of reasons, which smacks a bit of Goodwin creating a justification for Wolverine to follow-up on Roughhouse's kidnapping.


Wolverine is now noting that "a select few" people know his true identity, while most everyone else in Madripoor still know him as Patch.

Tyger Tiger wins O'Donnell's lease on the Princess Bar from General Coy, betting on the Wolverine/Roughhouse fight. 


Teebore's Take
The first issue from a new creative team, this issue kicks off a new storyline, but also acts as a refresher on the book's setting and supporting characters in the wake of the plot-heavy "Gehenna Stone" affair. In doing so, Goodwin and Byrne take the opportunity to do something that hasn't really happened yet in the series: examine just why, exactly, Wolverine is donning a disguise and flitting off to Madripoor to drink and get into bar fights regularly. The answer (that he can better control the animal within him by giving it a bit of the leash, from time to time) isn't necessarily the most original or introspective, and it does result in some relatively uninspired narrative captions (Claremont had a knack for that sort of thing, his purple prose livening up some otherwise turgid exchanges), but it goes a long ways towards giving the series an internal purpose beyond the external "because Wolverine is our money maker and needs his own series", one which matches the more hard-boiled adventure serial tone already established by Claremont. That, combined with the always-appreciated John Byrne art, makes for a solid start for the new creative team. 

Next Issue
Next week, Uncanny X-Men #255, New Mutants #83, and X-Factor #48. 

Collected Editions

11 comments:

  1. One other thing about this issue, for us young geeks reading month to month, was that we (okay I) was very excited and keen to see Wolverine in his X-Men costume going forward, after Peter David put him back into it for "Gehenna." Then you go through the first 21 pages of this issue, and it's like, "Aw man ..." Especially given that it's John Byrne ... you want to see him in the outfit Byrne designed! (Not that I probably knew that bit of trivia at the time ... still!)

    Then I got to Page 22 and was all, "Ahhhh, yessss." Eleven-year-old me was pleased.

    As for the Daredevil thing, I'm pretty sure that's a scene from a Frank Miller "Daredevil" issue, and that super-cocaine was a plot point of the Miller story in question. I am assuming that the source of the super-coke was never explained in the Daredevil run, so Goodwin is establishing the connection here so that the continuity fans in the audience understand that he's following up on a plot point from a different corner of the Marvel Universe.

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  2. @Jason: . I am assuming that the source of the super-coke was never explained in the Daredevil run, so Goodwin is establishing the connection here so that the continuity fans in the audience understand that he's following up on a plot point from a different corner of the Marvel Universe.

    Assuming you're right (and I have no reason to doubt you) that's pretty awesome. Even if the connection is lost on me, I always appreciate when creators do stuff like that.

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  3. "As for the Daredevil thing, I'm pretty sure that's a scene from a Frank Miller "Daredevil" issue, and that super-cocaine was a plot point of the Miller story in question. I am assuming that the source of the super-coke was never explained in the Daredevil run, so Goodwin is establishing the connection here so that the continuity fans in the audience understand that he's following up on a plot point from a different corner of the Marvel Universe."
    I don't think the super-coke was ever mentioned in a Daredevil story before this. I think the flashback was there solely to give Byrne a chance to draw Daredevil.

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  4. My bad. Maybe I got it mixed up with the "Nuke" stuff in the following issue, which emphatically IS from Miller's DD.

    Sorry!

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  5. For the most part, I like the Byrne/Jansen art combo. But man, that version of Storm is rough. Not the same way Byrne used to draw her. It's almost like he's trying to match Silvertri's version, with the perky nose, and exaggerated eye brows and eye lashes. It does not look good.

    I love how Wolverine is calling Gateway Old Timer. Did Goodwin not know that Wolverine was supposed to be an "Old Timer" himself at this point?

    So the DD stuff was thrown in just because Byrne wanted to draw him? Ok. It does seem likes missed opportunity for a real crossover, though.

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  6. "I love how Wolverine is calling Gateway Old Timer. Did Goodwin not know that Wolverine was supposed to be an "Old Timer" himself at this point?"
    I think that the important thing to remember is that at this point most of the references to Wolverine being "old" had him as an adult in 1944. The exception is Wolverine 5, where Jessica says that the tintype of Wolverine and an adult Chang was from the 19th century but the art made Chang look like he was in his 60s or 70s, so I don't blame Goodwin for being confused by that. So if Goodwin thought Logan was 65, then Gateway could be old enough to be his father.

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  7. " The cover image from this issue's cover is mildly iconic, and pops up in a various places (ads, licensing material, etc.) in the future. "

    Around 1990 literally the only Marvel merc there was available for us were 1) cardboard comic book holder boxes that had a pic of Wolverine (the one with running claws down at you and grinning) in the side showing out when you put them on a shelf (the cover for Secret Wars #1 on both of the larger sides and Spidey in his black costume on the side opposing Wolverine) and 2) a white t-shirt with this pic of Wolverine, both available only from the publisher and advertised in the inner covers of the comic books.

    Got an amount of those boxed and one tee.

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  8. @wwk5d: But man, that version of Storm is rough.

    Yeah. It almost seems pasted in, just for how atypically bad it is.

    I love how Wolverine is calling Gateway Old Timer. Did Goodwin not know that Wolverine was supposed to be an "Old Timer" himself at this point?

    I'm willing to chalk it up to Wolverine just calling him as such since Gateway is old, even if Wolverine is technically older than him.

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  9. // he can better control the animal within him by giving it a bit of the leash, from time to time //

    This was a fine explanation once he was in Madripoor, but for me it didn't quite jibe with the prologue. He'd already gone full berserker in Australia. If the prologue had been about how he felt it coming on, getting short with the other X-Men or going too far in a bar fight in town, okay; as it was, given what we saw, even though he was apparently fine enough the next day to wear his civvies and talk with Storm, I couldn't figure out why he'd want to go to Madripoor — which is the closest he gets to a kind of civilian-identity escape (actually, it's more like his real-life version of the Holodeck) and where the people of Lowtown are under his protection — instead of running wild in the Outback.

    Also, I know that it's a good idea to have in costume on the cover and, yeah, I like the suit too, but it doesn't at all gibe with either his Patch "disguise" or the fact that it's still supposed to be secret that Wolverine is alive.

    I like Byrne/Janson for the most part. Byrne at this point (maybe as it ever was) is really dependent on his inker — very much including himself, in terms of how much he felt like putting into it or, more charitably, whether his experimentation worked or not. What's strange is seeing obvious Byrne poses with the overall veneer reading as Miller/Janson, particularly in the Daredevil pages and the three early panels of flashback to Japan. The Novak lettering makes it look as much like Byrne to me as anything of Byrne himself that comes through.

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  10. @Blam: This was a fine explanation once he was in Madripoor, but for me it didn't quite jibe with the prologue.

    Yeah, it's...not the strongest rationale, simply because it pretty much is undermined by the issue itself.

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  11. The Daredevil appearance seems extraneous until you consider the issue's inker. Maybe Byrne wanted to draw some Daredevil for Janson to ink, and asked Goodwin for that brief scene.

    Though I agree an actual Wolverine/Daredevil crossover would've been pretty cool at the time.

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